NEW YORK (CBS New York/AP) — On the day after the day after, New Yorkers were left wondering what happened. There are still many streets that haven’t seen a plow yet.
“I’m curious as to why none of this has been plowed yet,” one person told CBS 2’s Lou Young. “All the streets around here, very few have been plowed. One was half-plowed.”
“I think they get an F-minus,” said Arlene Buonintane of Queens Village. “I think they really screwed up because, you know, this is ridiculous. You still have ambulances that have to get out. You still have police and firefighters that have to get through and none of the side streets are plowed.”
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“This has never been like this. I think it’s because the Sanitation [Department] is short. I’m a retired sanitation worker and it has never been like this,” another resident said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg blamed circumstance.
“We won’t get to everybody every time. We will make mistakes, but we have to continue plugging ahead. Yelling about it and complaining doesn’t help,” Bloomberg said. “I think you can expect another 24 hours before we will get to everyone and even then I’m not so sure.”
The mayor said 2,700 city plows manned by a reduced Department of Sanitation workforce were all at work Tuesday night, supplemented by other City departments. Young saw a privately contracted plow with a Parks Department worker riding shotgun.
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The City said it needs more private plows, front loaders and tow trucks. Ambulances have been getting stuck trying to do their work.
“Too many ambulances went down blocked streets, for example,” Bloomberg said. “What they should’ve done was stay at the corner of the main street and then walked down or struggled through the snow to get down, because once the ambulance got in it couldn’t get out.”
Young witnessed one ambulance doing precisely what the mayor wanted. It stopped on a main street so that EMTs could walk down snow-covered side street to assist someone. But in the process their ambulance blocked traffic, including a snow plow.
The stuck plow driver was clearly frustrated.
“It’s hard. We’re stuck in traffic because people don’t stay home,” he said. “People driving around, getting stuck in the middle of the street. We can’t get down the streets. It’s impossible.”
If you’re not buying this, neither are the folks at the NYC Council or in the borough presidents’ offices. Marty Markowitz was nearly apoplectic over the condition of his Brooklyn borough’s streets.
“We’ve had previous bad snowstorms and the Sanitation Department did an excellent job. Something didn’t happen this time,” Markowitz said.
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The City Office of Emergency Management, which is normally empty, was activated around 4 p.m. on Sunday when the storm started to settle in. There’s even a stuck ambulance task force that’s been at it since Monday trying to make sense of the mess.
But angry NYC Council members said they think there’s more that needs to be looked into than stuck ambulances. Hearings have been scheduled for Jan. 10.
“I believe we can do better. We expect better. I know we can do better. We did better in February when we had a storm and that was much worse. And so I know this was a bad storm, but the reality is we’ve done it in the past and we should have done it in the last 48 hours but we failed,” said Councilwoman Leticia James, D-Queens.
City Councilman Daniel Dromm shook his head and came short of stamping his feet on two feet of unplowed snow on 75th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“The fact that there has been no plow in this neighborhood at all is a disaster,” Dromm said. “It’s hard to understand why the city was so unprepared for this storm because we knew for a long time that it was coming.”
“This is going on day three and usually what we see is a plow coming down the street on the day when the storm starts, then you see something coming the day after and basically the third day you expect it to be clear but that’s not what happened here,” he added.
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Some are putting the blame on Bloomberg. “He is not doing what he is supposed to do,” one woman said. “He’s not running the city, we’re wondering what is happening.”
“I think the Mayor must be living in another world if he thinks that the response to this has been satisfactory,” Dromm said.
However, Bloomberg said he understands the hardships the public has faced in the last few days.
“I’m angry too, if your street was plowed the response was adequate, if your street was not plowed the response was inadequate,” Bloomberg said. “We can not do everything all the time and we are doing the best we can.”
CBS 2’s Dave Carlin rode along with plow operators and sanitation supervisors on Tuesday night during their 12-hour shifts.
Residents on unplowed side streets seemed openly hostile.
Carlin asked the operator if he understands the criticism.
“I understand it. I heard it. Unfortunately, it was one of those storms that are one in a million. The sheer volume and the speed it came down and the winds did not help at all,” the operator said.
(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)